Purdue's Daniels says ag community must refute 'false' claims against GMOs

By Daniel Enoch

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ARLINGTON, Va., Feb. 24, 2016 -- Purdue University President Mitch Daniels is calling on U.S. farmers, food manufacturers and ag researchers to fight back against opponents of biotechnology in agriculture production, who he said were spreading misinformation that threatens the lives of millions.

In an after-dinner address at the annual USDA Agricultural Outlook Forum Thursday, Daniels said advocates of ag biotechnology are facing “the most blatant anti-science of the age” adding that “those who would deny the fruits of agricultural research to starving or undernourished people need to be addressed for what they are - which is calloused, heartless and cruel.”

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“Lives are at stake, and while scientists, regulators and business people are naturally reluctant to fight back, it's morally irresponsible not to,” he said.

Daniels, a former Indiana governor and director of the Office of Management and Budget under President George W. Bush, cited projections by the United Nations that the world population is expected to grow to more than 9 billion people by 2050, generating a 70 percent increase in the demand for food. He described GMOs as the best hope to ensure the world's poor have access to an affordable and nutritious diet.

“Thousands of studies and trillions of meals consumed prove the safety of biotechnologies,” he said in an outline of his speech released by Purdue. “We would never withhold medications with a safety record like that, and it's just as wrong and just as anti-scientific to do so for food.”

Daniels cited work done by the university's World Food Prize winners as well as the Purdue Improved Crop Storage program as examples of land-grant initiatives that are making a difference in the developing world. He also described a forthcoming study by Purdue agricultural economist Wally Tyner and colleagues that concluded if the U.S. banned GMO crops, consumers would pay at least $14 billion more in annual food costs and global agricultural greenhouse gases would increase by up to 17 percent.

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Specifically addressing the dinner crowd at the Forum, Daniels said: “Too many of us are keeping what we know to ourselves, too many people outside this room don't know what you know and have been actively misled.” The agricultural community he said, has a “positive duty to contest, to refute the junk science and false claims” against the technologies that can feed the world in the decades ahead.

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